A New Year Message
Listed Under: Vicars Blog
Happy New Year - indeed, welcome to a new decade. Due to the vagaries of parish magazine publication dates , chances are this is the first you have heard or read from me - unless you have been following me and Your Church on Social Media. I still find it amazing that a simple Tweet, or NextDoor or Facebook post can reach hundreds more people in a few seconds- far more than our magazines reach.
Thank you for all of you that attended a Christmas Service. Last year’s services were affected by bugs and travel. Many “church regulars” were ill or went away over Christmas. The numbers were significantly bolstered by new visitors to the churches. Thank you for coming along to experience the true Christmas Presence. And I hope you are still dwelling in it today.
Twenty years ago, there was a debate about whether the new millennium began in the year 2000 or 2001. The public at large took it to be 2000 and celebrated accordingly. Some waited nervously to be struck by the so-called Millennium Bug which threatened to shut the world down. I was in duty that night in a Black Country Hospital. We all sat waiting for something to happen. It didn’t. For those who closed their eyes at that moment and waited for the end, the end never came. Others simply closed their eyes and went to sleep …and some staff got a real shock when their General Manager welcomed ( woke them up) in the new millennium. Are you awake to what a new decade offers you, and what can it offer your Church?
Welcome to 2020. If the change of year makes us look back, then a change of decade makes us do so even more. As a church, we must see if there is anything in our past that we can leave there, or learn, and most confidently move on from.
Having looked back, we must look forward: what will the coming year or decade bring? Some of us will pose an answer to that question with excitement, others with trepidation. Most of us with a bit of both. We have to face the fact that the churches are fragile - in terms of numbers regularly attending, our finances are under strain, and we are still supporting buildings that are still locked for most of the week. And for those of you who do not come to church, ask - why can’t I go to church? What’s holding you back? Contact me if I can help you. Using Your Church for birth/deaths/marriages will also help sustain the church in the community. A new year resolution, perhaps?
I doubt I will not be the only one to make a quip about having 20-20 vision. The year 2020 is necessarily unique so if you miss the chance, that’s it forever! The term, incidentally, derives from the use of visual acuity measurements by opticians. If you have 20/20 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the optician’s chart you can see what the "normal" human being can see. (In metric, the standard is 6 metres and it's called 6/6 vision). In other words, your vision is "normal"; most people can see what you see at 20 feet.
Of course, what normal means depends upon your standpoint, and we apply the term to human beings with care. You can have vision that is better than the norm. A person with 20/10 vision can see at 20 feet what a normal person can see when standing 10 feet away from the chart. Hawks, owls and other birds of prey have much more acute vision than humans. A hawk’s vision is eight times more acute than a human's, hence the other expression, “Watching you like a hawk!”. We need to look carefully and accurately for what God is expecting us to do in this place.
Seeing has much resonance in the spiritual life. At Christmas I preached on how the shepherds travelled to Bethlehem to see “this thing that has come to pass.” It was an experience not an event. At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus urges his disciples to watch and pray as he awaits his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. Prayer is an experience not an event.
As we gather up all the emotions, questions and concerns that surround the changing of the year, let alone a decade, it is good to commend them all to God. Only then will we walk with confidence into whatever the future brings for us individually as well as the churches in your communities. Look carefully and see where God is active or provoking you. Look for the detail as well as the bigger picture. When you consider all the things that 2020 might bring, there is plenty to pray about.